Tuesday 28 October 2014

What is freedom?

There was an old film I would like to write about. I would recommend businessmen to see if ever you found the time, and in how it defines real freedom. It is a film from '99 called ‘Instinct’ based on a story from a writer named Daniel Quinn where clearly much of the credit is deserved. The film stars Anthony Hopkins, as Ethan. I will not deny is one of my favourite actors of all time.

Ethan, an ecologist and anthropologist learns to live with animals and in this case Apes. He learns their sense of community, of protecting or guarding one another including their sense of compassion for each other. Man comes along and shoots several apes in their natural habitat. Ethan is stunned and blinded by his own rage, defends them by instinctively killing two of the park rangers with a club. He is caught, brought home and put in a criminal mental institution awaiting trial.

Meanwhile an aspiring psychiatrist (acted by Cuba Gooding Jr) named Theo is interested in taking his case. Yet he is only interested in the case for his own self-interest. Career breakthrough, personal ambition, recognition, challenge, money or vanity (selling a book) we could go on with man’s list of inner weakness and his selfish desires. He is not interested where he could help him or really understand him. He thinks he is, yet it is purely an ‘illusion’. We see this in many ways as Theo was told to look after some of the other patients in the facility which he takes unkindly to as he is soley focused in ‘helping’ this one guy.  Ethan refers to these people as the ‘takers’ in our world, and senses this in the psychiatrist almost by looking at him and through his acts, which tends to spark off his anger. In doing so he puts Theo to the test by exposing the psychiatrist’s lack of qualities, in an excessive yet challenging way.

Under Ethan’s challenge of hard knocks, the psychiatrist in the end learns to change and to see the world differently. No longer interested, in his self-interests, Theo realises his own stupidity, at the same time treats Ethan differently, more intelligently and more humanely. Theo is forever grateful to his new way of being. He says to him whilst weeping. ‘You taught me how to live outside of the game, you taught me to live’ In other words his true self came back, his own self-respect, his humility, his dignity and sense of compassion. He becomes more professional in his work, stronger, more authentic and more real. Ethan in turn learns to unlock his own final barriers and finds his peace of mind from his anger so that he too can continue his life with hope. (He also manages to escape)

We may of course interpret this film in hundreds of different ways. I for one, used to be a taker, in a world of takers some worse than others. It was more who was the best at this game? You deal with people of the same kind. It is a very stressful business to think this way. It can be unpleasant particularly if someone takes from you as we deal with it by harming ourselves or others in another form or become accomplices. The barometer of trust and integrity, well, it drops and it drops into storm clouds like a rock in a hard place. Good people also accomplices in many cases, that can lack courage, suffer whether they feel exploited or humiliated; they too, can feel stressed, unhappy or lost. Infact everyone loses.

I would shamefully admit whilst I look back in those days as I had reached the top in this game, that I had, or lost, half a brain, yet how could I define the best qualities in others when I myself was missing half my own qualities? It takes a lesson of hard knocks, and shocks for the ‘taker’ to find his way out, to be open, searching, to have a sense of curiosity so as to live a life more fulfilling, more enriching, with a peace of mind and with hope. And yet this all depends on the choices you make and the journey you choose, and even according to the talents and virtues that your life is given to you along your path. Or shall I say given back to you once you wake up.

The world is full of takers, and as so often the case, it is in our sub conscience, and even if we still think we mean well, we could still be living a life so far away from the truth in ourselves. More worryingly we have them in our leadership and at the top impacting and influencing our society who lack the quality, vision and sense of humanity to bring us forward. Take for example these employees at Goldman’s Sachs who are accountable for millions if not billions in our economy and define how to become a man as follows. Quite frankly there are parts of our culture that are shameful and perhaps it must learn how to weep?

As I always say, outside every external loss is an internal gain, in whatever profession or sector you choose to work in, albeit the financial sector and parts of the business sector, the media, the political world where a lot of the power and influence is, yet are deemed the least trustful and least respected. Does this mean we need to change jobs in this game? Not at all, it just means we do things differently, that’s the game changer. As the film quotes in its lesson of hard knocks, ‘You have lost nothing but your illusions and a little bit of skill’

That skill of course can be gained back differently as we continue our journey to become real men along our path to true freedom. By this way we can gain back a new era where we inspire success based on long term ideas, true talent and leadership, merit and of creativity for the common good of humanity and for the safeguard of our environment, our society and our children.

Jean-Jacque Rousseau said 'Man is born free and is everywhere in chains.' And yet it can only be that..

True freedom is the unleashing of the inner chains

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